Three flying buttresses finished- a retrospect

flying buttresses with the apostles and musiciansMy colleague Jelle Steendam recently forwarded a number of photos. In the meantime we'd already completed quite a number of flying buttress figurines again, and usually we would be going to St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands) again to match up the carved pieces on site for a good connection. That work is also called according here, but as this time Stide and Jelle had carved the top two flying buttress statues, they were the ones who needed to adjust the flying buttresses to the church. We had already left some leeway because we knew it wasn't going to fit perfectly, but this time it was quite a lot of work. Yet Jelle still managed to find time to take some nice pictures.

Seven sins

flying buttress with the seven sinsThe sculptures of The Seven Sins had been installed some time earlier. But there was not much to be adjusted, so I didn't need to drop by for this. That's why I was happy with Jelle's photos of these flying buttresses, so I can finally see how they look. It's become a very lively, and expressive set! From bottom to top we can see Lust (copy carved by Stide), Avarice (copy by Jelle), the Anger (copy carved by me), Vanity (Jelle), Envy (Stide), Gluttony (Jelle) and Idleness (Koen). They are sitting nicely and varied on the arch and each one has its own attribute, such as the toads at Lust's chest, the money pouch of Avarice, the Knife of Anger, the mirror of Vanity, the snake at the ear of the gossiping Envy and the workhorse of the lazy Idleness.

Six Apostles

flying buttress with the ApostlesThe six Apostles also each had their own attribute: from bottom to top we can see St. Peter with the key (copy by Stide), St. Andrew with St. Andrew's cross (copied by me), St. Paul with a sword (Jelle), St. Thomas with staff and set square (Jelle), St. James the Lesser with a club (Koen) and St. James the Greater with sword and scallop (Koen). At the top, the Divine Lamb holds the cross (copy made by Jelle). You can read more about the theme of these flying buttresses in this blog article↑.

Six musicians

adjusting the fit of the sculpture of Lamb of God from the arch with the apostlesThe last arch visited this day, was the group of musicians from arch no. 16.

From bottom to top we can see the trumpet player (Stide), the flutist (Koen), the lute player (Jelle), the woman with the lyre (Jelle), the violinist (Jelle), the man with the accordion (Koen) and the man listening, with his hand to his ear. Stide had carved this last statue and so he was the one to adjust the connection to the church itself. Read more about these flying buttresses under this link↑.

It should be all over the newspapers

newspaper article in TrouwIn the same period an article appeared in a daily newspaper Trouw about this restoration (click on the image to read it online). The article points out how more and more ecclesiastical buildings are losing their religious function in this day and age and that ever more often a suitable destination needs to be found for them. That also makes it difficult to find sponsors for a very expensive restoration. People no longer have an affinity with the old position and power of the church in society.

Yet people often do still feel connected to the iconic buildings themselves. And the sculptures on them then become the ambassadors of the building. The playful flying buttress sculptures by Van Kuilenburg in particular are the elements that touch the visitors and invite them to get acquainted. In this way, we still have an important function for the city, as sculptors!

Not all the money goes to the sculptors….

Now it appears in the newspaper article as if this restoration costs 32 million euros because there are so many sculptures on the church. That the sculptors use up the lion's share of this restoration. I have to disappoint you, unfortunately that is not the case. There are 96 flying buttress figurines. Make it easy for math and say there are 100 figurines, and add another 100 for the tower. 200 in total. If we would use up say 20 million out of the total restoration sum, that would be 100.000 euros per sculpture? You'll understand that this is not true. That would be very easy money for a few weeks of work.

No, we only use up a fraction of this amount. There are still many other items that are much more expensive, such as windows, roof, floor, and scaffolding. Fortunately, the sculptures are the most prominent part of the church, so in that aspect, we are certainly worth millions.

Update 29-8-2020 : added some finishing touches

Last Tuesday, Jelle and I went back for a day to do some extra accordion work on the underlying profiles. That also gave me the opportunity to take another series of photos of these three arches myself. I added them to the gallery. is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well:

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Flying buttress figurine: St. James the Lesser

copy of flying buttress statue of James the Lesser in Muschelkalk limestone

Two Jameses

The next flying buttress figurine of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem was one from the series of apostles of arc no. 16. It represents a heavily built man with a club. This could either be Judas Thaddeus, or James the Lesser. He was called the Lesser because he became an apostle later than James the Greater. The other James was, along with his brother the apostle and evangelist John, a son of Zebedee, a fisherman. They were inspecting their nets when Jesus arrived and asked them to become fishers of men.

Brother of the Lord

copy of flying buttress statue of James the Lesser in Muschelkalk limestoneBut James the Lesser was called "brother of the Lord". Then how is that possible? Well, according to the Medieval stories, that everyone knew in those days, the carpenter Joseph had been married before and he had a number of children from that marriage, but his wife had died. He was a widower when the young girl Mary (Miriam) came to live under his protection. She took care of the children, and especially James was very fond of her because he was very young when he lost his mother. Maria was about 14 years old when she came out from the temple protection to live with Joseph. Her father and mother, Joachim and Anna, had miraculously been gifted child in their advanced age and therefore entrusted her to God as a temple maiden. So she was brought up very pure and trained in high spiritual knowledge.

When she was 16 years old, she suddenly turned out to be pregnant and Joseph wanted to distance himself from her, but the angel confided to him that she was carrying a great miracle. He decided to marry her. Mary became the mother of Jesus, and James grew up with him. He was at least seven years older, but was among his most faithful disciples.


copy of flying buttress statue of James the Lesser in Muschelkalk limestoneThe club that the apostle James carries with him shows a different way of thinking that was common in the Middle Ages. Emphasis was placed on the suffering and martyrdom of Jesus and of his apostles and saints, therefore, the club with which he was put to death was given a prominent place in the depictions of James. Now this is not a Medieval statue at all, but made in 1956 by Eduard van Kuilenburg. In the Dutch language book on the sculpture of the Eusebius Church Elisabeth den Hartog and Ronald Glaudemans write that the themes for the sculpture were presented by Arnhem city archivist Mr Schaap. That could explain why Van Kuilenburg gave the saints such traditional attributes.

Traditionally, James the Lesser was sometimes depicted with a fuller's stick instead, a heavy piece of wood that was used to felt wool, because he was supposedly been beaten to death with it. So who else could have become the patron saint of all wool felters other than James? Those inimitable twists of thoughts of those Medieval people though…

Today we would be more interested in the life and works of such an apostle than in his martyrdom. The lurid details and emphasis on martyrdom for the Church are definitely from another time.


on to the next flying buttress figurine→ is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well:

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The flying buttress with the seven sins-2: carving!

Copying flying buttress statue Rage. Photo during the carving of the detailsAs you may perhaps remember: on 9 March 2019 I posted a blogpost about our next series of flying buttress figurines to be carved for St. Eusebius' church, which arrived in pieces in our yard. These images were impregnated with acrylic resin, but something went wrong and they burst out …Read the whole article…